'Maharashtra may get a new Chief Minister soon'

Former Maharashtra CM Prithviraj Chavan has not a single good thing to say about BJP government in the Centre and the state, labelling it a failure on all counts. Interview with Dharmendra Jore

Former Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan has not a single good thing to say about the BJP government in the Centre and the state, labelling it a failure on all counts. Nor did he mince his words when it came to the BJP’s poster boy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he says, is making a series of foreign trips just to make up for the fact that he had once been denied a visa because of the Gujarat riots. Chavan paints his successor, Devendra Fadnavis, as a failure who is struggling to stay in office as he brushes under the carpet all the corruption by his ministers.

Prithviraj Chavan
Prithviraj Chavan


'Modi a cowboy'
I’m sorry to say the PM’s understanding of economy is poor and his finance minister is equally dismal. Mr Modi is not an economist, we all know. But in the past two years, he should have got enough understanding of the basics of economy. Instead he is doubling up in foreign affairs and touring foreign counties. Sadly, there is abject failure in our foreign policy. You cannot do a cowboy policy, wherein you suddenly get up and visit Pakistan. You announce aid to some country and do all possible tricks.

Hogging publicity abroad
Modi goes to foreign countries and meets Indians there just to hog popularity. He doesn’t go there to win new friends. You must know that he was not allowed visa to many countries because of the Gujarat riots. I think is he making up for that by visiting as many countries as he can while he is PM. What is unfortunate is that Modi doesn’t acknowledge that his predecessor Manmohan Singh had laid the foundation for what Modi claims to have been doing for foreign affairs.

There’s more to Rajan’s exit
Getting Raghuram Rajan, one of the brighest young economists in the world, as our RBI governor was a big victory for Manmohan Singh. He is still one of the best today. He is a little outspoken and speaks his mind, which the PM and FM might not have liked. They expected him to work like an average babu. But I think there’s something more to his exit. Did he go at the behest of large bank defaulters? It will be interesting to see who replaces him. I strongly feel that only an upright person will work wonders in that position. This government is smart in masking its failures. Fearing a bad market after Rajan’s exit, it announced an FDI policy to manage the market. Similarly, after the Bihar debacle, it tried to recover the market by announcing some package.

Make in India? It’s all jumla
Achieving growth and bringing in ‘achhe din’ is just a jumla. Make in India is a falsehood. I have asked our CM Devendra Fadnavis to give me the names of investors who inked MoUs with the government during the Make in India week. He hasn’t given me any list, not even after I applied under the Right To Information Act. They don’t want me to know who will create 13 lakh jobs in Maharashtra by investing Rs 8 lakh crore. I believe it’s yet another jumla. No new industry has come. Exports are down, nothing is working. Yet they manage the figures, which experts have started questioning now.

Agricultural failure
The BJP proved disastrous not only in the Centre, but also in Maharashtra, where the highest ever number of farmer suicides were recorded in the past 16 months. The PM has no answer, and even the Maharashtra CM has nothing to say on this failure. Their talk of doubling agriculture is far-fetched, because they are not able to give farmers price for their produce and they are not offering loan waivers to distressed farmers either.

Water crisis mishandled
Maharashtra government’s drought management has created a negative impression in investors. Marathwada, once a destination for investors, has become a big repellant due to the water crisis. The Fadnavis government denied water to industries, it stopped water supply to breweries. Who would want to invest in Marathwada in future? The BJP government in the Centre and State have botched up water conservation by using techiniques that are harmful in long term. They are digging rivers, which will affect recharging of water sources in the long term.

'Smart City scheme is wrong'
They are giving Rs 100 crore to a smaller town and the same amount a metro like Mumbai. What is this? The government should invest in state-controlled corporations to do jobs like solid waste management, jobs that contractors are not willing to do efficiently.

Bullet train a Tughlaq-brained idea
How can anyone think a bullet train (between Ahmedabad and Mumbai) is a top priority at this stage? It is like a move by Muhammad Tughlaq (a Turkish sultan of Delhi, 1325-1351, who historians described as a lunatic for his strange and impulsive decisions that caused great trouble to the people). The bullet train will not benefit Mumbai and Mahaashtra at all. I’m completely opposed to the idea. The government is not coming clean on how it intends to raise funds for this mega project.

Saffron agenda
The BJP is out to saffronise everything. I’m told that the party is heading towards making Hindutva its agenda. They are changing education to fit their agenda as well. Our diversity is at stake. See what they are doing through yoga day, ban on beef and all Hindu things that are heaped on us.

Sena may quit state govt
I strongly believe that the Sena will pull out of the state government any time before the BMC polls. I’m not sure when, but the Sena should start working as the official opposition (as they did in 2014, before joining the minority government). They have the numbers and they can have their opposition leader (instead of the Congress’s current opposition leader in the Assembly). The Sena doesn’t want to contest Assembly polls again. This is the most likely scenario. The Sena’s completing 50 years of existence is a great achievement, thanks to Balasaheb (Thackeray). However, has the Sena’s current leadership filled Balsaheb’s shoes? Can it speak for the Marathi people?

NCP to demand a new CM
Once the BJP is on its own, NCP will come into the picture. It will take centrestage in an arrangement to stabilise the BJP’s government, which will face a minority crisis after the Sena’s exit. However, NCP may want the current CM changed in return. The NCP would want a friendly CM, as their leadership doesn’t like Fadnavis.

Blame game with NCP
I don’t know why the NCP leadership is blaming me for the Assembly defeat in Maharashtra. In fact, it was a series of corruption scandals in Maharashtra and Delhi that took us down. There was also the Modi factor, which has since vanished.

On battling corruption as CM
I decided to work in a particular manner in view of the change of leadership (in the wake of the Adarsh scam). I wanted to regain the confidence of the people and I did it quite successfully. I corrected the state’s apex cooperative bank and I sought clarity in irrigation department, though I had limitations. I didn’t have the mandate to sack corrupt ministers (from NCP) because I was heading a coalition government. In fact, there were two governments that ran parallel to each other. One was headed by me and the other was led by Ajit Pawar. The allegation that I initiated inquiries against Chhagan Bhujbal and Ajit Pawar is completely wrong. It was the then home minister (late RR Patil, also of NCP) who signed the orders. Those files never came to me.

Congress, be aggressive
CM Fadnavis is a big failure. He is trying to push every corruption case under the carpet. His only job is to survive in office. All corruption cases in his government are fit to go to the court, and the Congress must take initiative in taking a legal course. The BJP did it against all our top leaders. The goodie-goodie approach towards the BJP government will not do. For instance, Eknath Khadse getting calls from Dawood’s wife is very serious. He is the first sitting Cabinet minister whose case was given to the Anti-Terror Squad for investigations. This directive of the CM has some connotations. Why the ATS? The Congress must move court in this matter. I’m told that Fadnavis is not keen on taking Khadse back in the Cabinet, but other party leaders are very keen.

On Kamat’s resignation
My party colleague Gurudas Kamat’s decision of quitting the party could have been avoided. The party national general secretary (Mohan Prakash) should have managed the issue before it escalated. I believe that some arrangement will be made to retain Kamat and he should be given a wider space to work in Mumbai ahead of BMC election. When we talk of loyalists, the party has to keep a delicate balance of loyalists and other leaders who are brought in from other parties. The party needs to accommodate new people, but putting new entrants in charge is not correct. I also feel that the loyalists will stay with the party, but the others may move out seeking greener pastures.

In Uttar Pradesh...
Remember that larger parties at state level get preference in small elections (Assembly). The Sena is one in Maharashtra. This trend was seen in many places in the past. I think the BSP is a larger party in the UP and so is Samajwadi Party. So, it should be between the two parties. The national players are somewhat left behind, as far as voters’ support is concerned.

On the Essar tapes
Tapping started during the Vajpayee regime. I was in New Delhi then. Officers of the Mumbai police are said to have facilitated this at the behest of some corporate. There are many versions in this, but this is a very serious matter.

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